You shall go to the ball

One of my all time favourite period costume films is Marie Antoinette written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Everything is just so luscious and extravagant there are over 60 dresses just for Antoinette’s character. Milena Canonero the films academy award winning costume designer and 6 assistant designers created the gowns, hats and suits. Another thing I like about this film is the juxta positioning of modern post punk music by bands such as Adam and The Ant and The Strokes whilst also utilizing period music and the cheeky glimpse of converse next to 18th century court shoes.



“The idea was to capture in the design the way in which I imagined the essence of Marie Antoinette’s spirit. So the film’s candy colours, its atmosphere and the teenaged music all reflect and are meant to evoke how I saw that world from Marie Antoinette’s perspective. She was in a total silk and cake world.”

Sofia Coppola

“So many of our costumes were in the framework of the song ‘I Want Candy. We chose colours and textures that remind you of things you would want to eat. We go from very pale and soft to more shocking. You can say we were very influenced by the period but we don’t present a classical vision. It’s more of a fashion statement. At times it was very rock and roll.”

Milena Canonero


Milena Canonero used macaroons as the colour palette. “We squeezed the essence of the period, without reproducing it, I simplified the very heavy look of the 18th century. I wanted it to be believable, but more stylized.” Milena Canonero


Ever since my first unknowing glance at Madame de Pompadour I have had a love for the 18th century and it’s these films that have captured my interest and inspired me to venture into theatre production design.

These are the gowns I have awed at but never actually thought that I would ever be able or knowledgeable enough to actually make myself. And well it’s about time I made something for myself again and why not go for one of my most love movie costumes ever. I may even get to wear it to a cosplay ball in December.

wig 1

This is the dress I will be making, Marie Antoinette wears it to a masquerade ball so I think me wearing it to a cosplay masquerade ball is quite fitting. Except for her mourning dress it’s the only other black dress she wears in the film usually her day and court dresses are soft pastels and vibrant shots of pinks. The film follows 20 years of Marie Antoinette’s life and you see her change from a naive girl into a sophisticated woman, her dresses become richer and the necklines become lower. This gown is confident and sexy but in an understated way.

marie 2

I’ve never seen an 18th century gown have cap sleeves over elbow length sleeves. The bodice looks to be put together in the way you would expect an 18th century bodice to be, probably with hook and eye closure at the centre front, that’s how I plan to do it anyway. A gown like this might have been made of taffeta, silk or satin in the 18th century, I will probably make mine in taffeta. The bodice is either embellished with jewels in a floral design or the fabric itself is embroidered with metallic thread.


I never realised watching the film that the skirt has on overskirt of black tulle, I just thought it was black fabric until I started researching. I don’t expect 18th century gowns would ever have this feature but I love it. For the skirt petticoat I will use fabric to match the bodice.

marie 1

In this photo shoot for vogue you can see a white petticoat with maybe a flounce or pleat around the bottom edge, I can’t spot it anywhere in the film but I like the effect. Where an earth I’ll get those amazing shoes though I don’t know. And yes I’m getting a wig, I am unbelievable excited about the prospect of wearing a wig which I don’t really get as I’ve avoided them in the past.

Just a note: These images are not mine

About thecuckooemporium

A 23 year old costumer, vegetable grower and lover of vintage.

2 responses to “You shall go to the ball

  1. I love that film too! I always pause and rewind at the all-stars scene. I love those details so much. It’s 1 of the reasons I love costume design. You get to do so much whimsical things! You probably know about the books written by Janet Arnold in which you can find original patterns from the 18th century! I am very excited about seeing what you make from the gorgeous dress you picked! I bet it is going to be beautiful!

    • Yes there is no other film out there like it for costumes. I do love The Duchess, the 18th century costumes are amazing in that too but it’s more realistic and the colours are more somber.
      I have a couple of Janet Arnold’s books and I also have a few Jean Hunnisett books which are great for patterns too. Thank you so much for your excitement and support!

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